Growing partners: building a community-academic partnership to address health disparities in rural North Carolina.Prog Community Health Partnersh. 2014 Summer; 8(2):181-6.PC
Community-based participatory research (CBPR) holds tremendous promise for addressing public health disparities. As such, there is a need for academic institutions to build lasting partnerships with community organizations. Herein we have described the process of establishing a relationship between a research university and a Black church in rural North Carolina. We then discuss Harvest of Hope, the church-based pilot garden project that emerged from that partnership.
The partnership began with a third-party effort to connect research universities with Black churches to address health disparities. Building this academic-community partnership included collaborating to determine research questions and programming priorities. Other aspects of the partnership included applying for funding together and building consensus on study budget and aims. The academic partners were responsible for administrative details and the community partners led programming and were largely responsible for participant recruitment.
The community and academic partners collaborated to design and implement Harvest of Hope, a church-based pilot garden project involving 44 youth and adults. Community and academic partners shared responsibility for study design, recruitment, programming, and reporting of results. The successful operation of the Harvest of Hope project gave rise to a larger National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study, Faith, Farming and the Future (F3) involving 4 churches and 60 youth. Both projects were CBPR efforts to improve healthy food access and reducing chronic disease. This partnership continues to expand as we develop additional CBPR projects targeting physical activity, healthy eating, and environmental justice, among others. Benefits of the partnership include increased community ownership and cultural appropriateness of interventions. Challenges include managing expectations of diverse parties and adequate communication. Lessons learned and strategies for building and maintaining similar partnerships are discussed.
The benefits of community-based research for addressing health disparities are many, and there are lessons to be learned that can strengthen community-academic partnerships.